Putin orders $81,500 payment to families of National Guards who die in Ukraine

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FILE PHOTO: Destroyed Russian tanks and military vehicles are seen dumped in Bucha amid Russia's invasion in Ukraine
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LONDON (Reuters) - President Vladimir Putin signed a decree on Monday ordering the payment of 5 million roubles ($81,500) to the families of members of Russia's National Guard who died in Ukraine and Syria.

The decree amounted to official recognition that members of the guard, known as Rosgvardia, are among the casualties of the war in Ukraine that Russia describes as a special military operation.

The force, which answers directly to Putin, was created in 2016 to fight terrorism and organised crime, and has been used domestically to crack down on peaceful anti-government protests.

Western analysts have interpreted its deployment from the early stages of the war in Ukraine as a sign of misplaced confidence that Russia would quickly seize major cities, including the capital Kyiv, where Rosgvardia could then be used to maintain order.

In fact, Russian forces were beaten back from both Kyiv and Ukraine's second city, Kharkiv, and are now focused on heavy fighting in the eastern Donbas region.

Putin had already announced compensation schemes for the families of dead and wounded soldiers. Russia has not updated its casualty figures since March 25, when it said 1,351 servicemen had been killed and 3,825 wounded. Ukraine and Western governments say its toll by now is many times higher. ($1 = 61.35 roubles)

(Reporting by Reuters; Editing by Kevin Liffey)

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